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Lodi officers testify in case of teens accused of crime spree

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Posted: Friday, January 28, 2011 3:22 pm | Updated: 2:57 pm, Wed May 25, 2011.

New details emerged in the case of two teens accused of a one-night crime spree in November, as a preliminary hearing wrapped up in San Joaquin Superior Court on Friday.

During testimony, Lodi Police Department Detective Larry Fluty characterized both defendants, Joaquin Garcia, 18, and Hertaejpal Singh, 17, as Norteno gang members trying to create havoc in Sureno territory.

"Two gang members got together, looking for someone to shoot," he said.

Garcia and Singh have been charged with almost two dozen crimes, most of which are felonies. The charges stem from several incidents on the night of Nov. 10 involving a stolen white Ford F-150, which police believe was occupied by the two teens. According to police, Garcia and Singh committed a hit-and-run against a parked vehicle, followed by a non-fatal shooting hours later. When officers responded to the shooting, a patrol car encountered the truck and a high-speed chase ensued. The pursuit ended when the truck flipped over near the Acampo Road off-ramp on Highway 99.

Despite being a minor, Singh is being charged as an adult. The teens have not been accused of stealing the vehicle, which was reported stolen in Los Banos.

Three members of the police department testified Friday, each providing details about the events of Nov. 10.

Officer Kevin Kent, who was driving the patrol car that pursued the defendants, said the truck led police on a high-speed chase through the streets of east Lodi, reaching speeds of 80 mph in residential areas and nearly losing control. Once the chase reached Highway 99, the truck forced another vehicle off the road before ultimately rolling in an attempt to exit the freeway, Kent said.

Kent also said that Singh, who was driving the vehicle, appeared to be intoxicated, speaking with slurred speech and smelling of alcohol. A sobriety test was taken later, Kent said, which determined Singh's blood-alcohol content to be .19, more than twice the legal limit of .08.

Fluty, who heads the department's Special Investigations Unit, said both defendants were Norteno gang members based on tattoos that appeared gang-related and associations with documented gang members. But Garcia's defense attorney, Doug Goss, argued strongly against the assertion that his client was a gang member. Goss said no legitimate evidence existed that proved Garcia was a Norteno.

Presiding Superior Court Judge Michael Garrigan threw out two counts against Garcia, but ruled the defendants should stand trial for other charges. An arraignment has been set for Feb. 15 at 8:30 a.m.

Contact reporter Fernando Gallo at fernando@lodinews.com.

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